Dribbles and Drabbles

From Fanlore
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Title: Dribbles and Drabbles
Creator: Merlin Missy
Date(s): February 22, 2008
Fandom: multifandom
External Links: Dribbles and Drabbles
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Dribbles and Drabbles is a 2008 essay by Merlin Missy.


This essay is part of a series called Dr. Merlin's Soapbox.

Some Topics Discussed

  • drabbles
  • drabbles have to be exactly 100 words
  • "Fanfiction allows drabble to flourish in places where original fiction falls down, and this is why we write so many."
  • "Drabbles are by no means free from badfic, but the format denies excess. Even the most magically gifted, violet-eyed, flame-tressed Mary Sue only gets one hundred words."

From the Essay

A drabble is an extremely short story told in precisely 100 words. Not 99 words. Not 101 words. Certainly not approaching 1000 words. By definition, a drabble is precisely 100 words, and that's it. Live it, learn it, love it, or know that Doctor Merlin will mock you by name in public places. There may be charades involved, and also puppets.

The drabble is a specific art form, one which teaches the aspiring writer --- as well as the well-traveled author --- the perspicacity of brevity. Stories are winnowed down to their essences, no room spared for flowery prose or crutch phrases. The proper words must be chosen because no other words can be spared, and when applied correctly, true elegance is achieved. Economy of language is key.

Drabbles are fun. Drabbles tell little bite-sized pieces of story, set up microuniverses, reset your brain about particular characters, can contain drama or laughter or both, and all in a tiny package you can read in less time than it takes to run to the bathroom. Drabbles are the Hershey's Kisses of fiction when they're done right, and are at least M&M;'s when they're done less right. (Done wrong, they're like eating a raw sardine. It's bad, but it's over quickly.)

Fanfiction is lucky to have the drabble format so readily available. Drabbles are uniquely suitable for fanfic. Backstories are already written. Setting is already created. Everything you'd need to know about the characters appearing in the story, you probably already know and if you don't, you're probably new to this. Drabbles rely on expectation: How would this character react to an event, and how does s/he react instead? What is the character's heart's desire, and how does it differ from what s/he gets? Drabbles have to take into account what the audience already knows (see "You Mean Everyone Brought Potato Salad?") and with fanfiction, it's much easier to know what your audience does and does not know.